Protesting: Really Worth the March?

WTO protests in Seattle, November 30, 1999 Pep...

WTO protests in Seattle, November 30, 1999 Pepper spray is applied to the crowd. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who watched the NATO news coverage last weekend would have to agree: the Chicago Police Department came out of the whole ordeal looking like shining stars, calmly maintaining composure after being punched and provoked by deodorant-less, mask-donning protestors. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, they warded off angry demonstrators trying to forage across the Chicago River Bridge to claim Michigan Avenue as their own. Day after day they tried, but to no avail. In fact, the NATO weekend came and went with the protestors barely making a dent on the city or on the American public.

But had these protestors made it to the Magnificent Mile to spread their messages, would the outcome have been different? Would more Chicagoans have been influenced by their angry messages and meticulously crafted signs? Would they be able to sway those darned American families who insist on patronizing corporate America by taking their hard-earned cash out of the evil banks just to spend it frivolously on education and mortgages? Would the protestors have prevailed if only they could reach this Chicago population?

Probably not.

And this isn’t because I don’t think that demonstrating free speech is effective in relaying messages to the public or creating a dialogue about important issues. In fact, past demonstrations have achieved remarkable milestones for Americans, especially in efforts to grant equal civil liberties. But this protest held a different charge, lacking in many ways when compared to forerunning demonstrations. How?

  1. Police Preparedness: This summit was not the first time the United States has hosted a multi-national political event, and Chicago P.D. was able to use this to their advantage. In fact, the 1999 World Trade Organization Meeting in Seattle was a perfect way for the police to refine their tactics by looking at what did and didn’t work when trying to keep protests peaceful. What catches more news coverage: a line of police firmly (but calmly) standing their ground while protestors chant and raise their signs, or rioting anarchists throwing Molotov cocktails? The police just didn’t give the protestors a chance to be violent the entire weekend.
  2. Disjointed Messages: Unity is dead—nobody’s messages this weekend were coherent. Some folks were marching against corporate greed, others against the institution of higher education (ironically they were students from a state university), and still others whose issues didn’t even warrant protesting (“NO PORK ON MY FORK”…easily solved by just not eating pork). In the end, most protesters were not fighting for any succinct (or rational) cause. And even if they were, their logic was completely disjointed: corporate greed is one thing, but shouting for “a world without work or money” is farfetched and impossible unless you want to live alone in the woods.
  3. Outdated Tactics: What is the best way to express a desire for the government to assist the hardworking lower and middle classes who can’t seem to make ends meet? Probably not by splurging on $3.00 bottled water and cigarettes and then fighting police officers who, themselves, often fall into the 99%. What would be impressive, however, is if the protestors all banned together to build houses and tutor kids in Chicago’s Southside. Now that’s making a bang. Not only would the protestors gain respect and worldwide news coverage for their causes, but everyone would be so impressed by their efforts to work towards change rather than complain about it, that it would likely make others attempt to better the world as well.

So perhaps protesting in America is just not the most effective way anymore. Perhaps the best way to express frustration for government, foreign policy, education, and environmental issues is to find a group of like-minded thinkers and work towards the cause. Hate that we are still in war? Educate yourself on effective ways to stabilize a country and volunteer to work towards that cause abroad. Wish every American had an equal opportunity to be educated? Volunteer to tutor in low-income neighborhoods and then get involved with state-or nationwide educational policy.

Don’t chant about change, be involved in change. And don’t be afraid to do it in a peaceful and respectable way.

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About OneWeekToCrazy

Writer in my real life, Milton in my work life. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

Posted on May 23, 2012, in Across the Globe and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You go! That was awesome and so well put! Some people (even the most educated and book smart people) have no common sense and in my opinion are morons. This was a wonderful post and parts of it made me chuckle =). Found you through LinkedIn and am now a new fan and follower. Would love for you to stop by my blog sometime! Best of luck to you in all you do.
    Much love and abundant blessings,
    Kimmy
    http://www.withoutalabel.me

  2. Did they vote? No. If you do not participate in the most basic act of democracy, you may not complain at the end of the day. 7% turnout at the Chicago primary. Exercise democracy. Exercise democracy. Or shut the hell up.

  3. authormandycarroll

    I have to say. I agree with you on many platforms here. Our police..authority figures are much more prepared to address these types of occasions than we ever will be. And yes Unity is dead. It has rapidly progressed to a “me” society. And it is hard I believe for people to step out of their own sphere to look at the walk of another. Even in their supposed unity..each was seeking something for themselves.
    Working together and completing a goal..one by one..is indeed a worthy path. The sad point in this matter is this..”can we as individuals allow our position..our need..our want to be second..fourth… eighty on the to do list..?”

  4. I read this blog while understanding that I am one of those people that is disjointedly railing against much of our established financial world whom I blame for the current state of our economy. In this case I really don’t believe that the message needs to find total unity. The simple fact that the occupy movement did explode with any kind of a message may have been enough to cause some change of heart in the so called 1% of the upper class.

    Remember, when everyone watches the news here in the U.S. they are also seeing reports of an Arab Spring, a European Debt Crisis, and other movements that are just starting to take shape as well. And that has got to cause a little disconnect if you are a person who enjoys his seat up on top of the throne. And you may even ask yourself should I be concerned about this if it continues to take shape, or maybe even listen a little closer to the complaints to see if I help change a situation that could spill dangerously out of control.

    With all that said, I did enjo the blog and the comments above!

    • Thank you for responding! It’s nice to hear so many different perspectives, from those who feel they are “part of the 99%” to those who feel they are “part of the 1%.” I’m glad you stopped by and threw your opinoin into the mix 🙂

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